UpcomingHoliday.com Now with Geolocation

UpcomingHoliday.com has been updated and now includes geolocation support. If your browser supports it your country should automatically find and select your country. If not, it will fall back to IP based country lookup. Geolocation is a HTML 5 feature that is supported by Safari on the iPhone 3.0 OS, Firefox 3.5 and Google Chrome.

UpcomingHoliday.com is an application that tells you what and when your next federal holiday is. Currently it’s available for people in: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Nigeria, United Kingdom and United States.

Fall 2009 Web Browser Outlook

The names are familiar: Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. These relatively new browsers have been shaking the foundations of Internet Explorers complete victory over Netscape. These new browser are implementing fresh ideas and breaking out of the crusty browsers of the early 21st century. With the second browser wars in full swing, lets see where things stand and what’s coming.

Mozilla Firefox 3.6

The Firefox team is focusing on startup performance, JavaScript performance, lightweight themes, and a few new features for developers. Firefox 3.6 is expected to arrive Nov 2009.

After that, Firefox 3.7 will boast a revamped user interface, a WebGL implementation and ongoing speed and responsiveness improvements.

Safari 5?

Safari 4 was just released, and we have not heard any official statement from Apple what features Safari 5 will include, but looking at WebKit we can see what core browser technologies are being developed. WebKit has added geolocation support, HTML 5 draggable, and HTML 5 forms patterns and required attributes. What directly user visible changes will Apple make? We will have to wait and see.

Internet Explorer 9?

The next version of IE is still quite a ways out (3 years if you look at the release time-frame of IE 7 and 8 ) but it’s expected to boast many new HTML 5 features including native video and audio playback. Internet Explorer 9 should be quite a feature packed release with HTML 5 goodness, better performance, and improved standards support.

Opera 10.10

Opera 10 was just released this month but the team is working on Opera 10.10 with Unite. So far we’re waiting to hear more from the Opera team about what they are working on.

Google Chrome 4

With Google Chrome 3 being released, the Chrome team and external developers are hard at work making the browser cross platform with support for OS X and Linux. User end features include bookmark synchronization, extensions and surly will include more JavaScript performance enhancements.

Metatunnel by FRequency - WebGL Demo
Metatunnel by FRequency - WebGL Demo

Overall the competition looks quite healthy and browsers are being enhanced to be the Operating System of the future.

Upcoming Web Browser: Safari 5?

What does Apple have on the horizon for Safari as version 4 was just released 2 months ago (June, 2009)? So far we have not heard anything and that isn’t a huge surprise, Apple is a very secrative company. The good news is that Safari is based on the open source WebKit rendering engine, so we can check out the list of feature enhancements added to WebKit since Safari 4 released with AppleWebKit/531.9.

New WebKit features:

On top of expected HTML, CSS, and JavaScript improvements, Apple will surly tweak the web browser again to build the most usable web browser. It could be a long time before we see Safari 5, or they may release an incremental Safari 4.1. Further details will come as now we can only speculate.

Estimated Release Date: June 2011

Update: Apple has indeed released Safari 5 with a tun of new HTML5 features and performance improvements, and a year ahead of my estimate; check it out at the Safari What’s New page.

Accelerated CSS Transforms

Recently the WebKit team added support for CSS transformations with 3D GPU acceleration. This means that soon we can built web applications that mimic desktop applications in graphical responsiveness. Charles Ying wrote a simple image gallery application that demos this new functionality.

This is definitely not yet ready for end users but it demonstrates the power of the web platform and where it is heading. With the native video tag, local and session storage, plus much faster JavaScript engines, browsers are changing from simply presenting information to being a fully interactive platform. It’s no surprise that Google is developing a web-browser operating system, called Chrome OS.

It is also quite encouraging to see the second browser war bring fresh ideas and increase the possibilities to the browser. Competition is great.

Demo of CSS Transforms
Snow Stack in WebKit Nightly r46091

The CSS Transforms were originally created at Apple by Dean Jackson, David Hyatt and Chris Marrin for the iPhone. Apple then improved the spec and submitted it to standardization at the W3C. Firefox 3.5 supports 2D css transforms but does not yet support the newer accelerated 3D animations.

So how does it work?

The images are put on the page using standard CSS and HTML, and they are then animated by JavaScript using these CSS properties:

-webkit-transition-property: -webkit-transform;
-webkit-transform: rotateY(45deg);
-webkit-transition-duration: 2s;

The transition property is set to transform, the transform is set to rotate the image in Y-space by 45 degrees, and the duration is set to 2s. With that, the web browser will take the current position of the image and rotate it by 45 degrees in 2 seconds, which produces an animation effect. How beautifully simple it is!

The Importance of the HTML Video Tag

Since Firefox, Safari, and recently Chrome hit the browser scene, the web has been growing and improving at a much faster pace. The next evolution of the web comes in the form of HTML 5, the latest HTML standard that brings native video playback, offline storage, 2D drawing via the canvas tag among others features. Of those, the video tag is the most important and critical to the continued success of the open web.

Native video playback inside a web browser will now be as simple as embedding an image into a page:

<video src="http://example.com/yourvideo.ogg" controls></video>

The benefits of this are immediately obvious to any software developer. It’s a native tag so it fits in much better to the web platform, it can be controlled through JavaScript, and no more messing around with a black-box flash embed. Side benefits of this are bringing video to all users, not just the platforms that Flash supports (stable 64 bit version + iPhone version).

So far only Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4 have built in support for the video tag; Opera and Chrome support is in the works.

The web has flourished and grown to where it is today because it is based on open standards and because it is not controlled by any one company or organization. Lets continue to keep the web open and successful by using the new video tag.